Today is a big day for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Mike Mitchell. It’s the final week of practice, and who practices and who does not will go a long way toward determining who is going to be able to suit up and play in Baltimore on Sunday.
One of those questionable players is Mitchell, who suffered a hamstring injury—or perhaps reaggravated the hamstring injury that caused him to miss the preseason—during Sunday’s loss to the Bears. Both he and Sean Davis, dealing with an ankle injury, were limited in practice yesterday.
If neither practices fully today, then the safety position could be in trouble. They have already been running J.J. Wilcox a lot in place of the injured, but he might end up starting in two days, which might not be pretty based on his missed tackles in Chicago.
Not that Mitchell had a much better game overall, including a couple of missed tackles of his own. That includes one early in the game with the Bears already inside the red zone. Chicago was able to get Jordan Howard off the right edge, with the safety coming up to make the tackle in open space, but the back cut inside of him and drove through his off-balanced arm tackle.
Still, one thing he has done well over the years is function as the last line of defense player as a lone deep safety. Howard was able to break free of the front seven late in the first half, but Mitchell was this time able to get him in open space and minimize the damage.
Late in the game, he had a shot at getting his first turnover of the year similar to the pass that Wilcox picked off, but failed to come up with it. He did make a nice read on the throw, cutting off the route and getting in front of it, but he could not bring it in as he went to the ground. This would have given the offense a short field with a little over a minute to play in a tie game.
Then there was his big missed tackle in overtime in Tarik Cohen’s 36-yard run. with Wilcox already been turned inside out, Mitchell was working the angle to the sideline, but he allowed the shifty back to slip back into the field of play.
Mitchell was spared on that play when the officials ruled that he had stepped out of bounds, but there is no good excuse for not getting the runner out of bounds there. He was never the most efficient tackler in his career, but the Steelers need better than that.